Made In Hollywood Honors event honors renowned composer for works including L.A.-scored ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’
Story & photos by Linda A. Rapka/AFM Local 47
Entertainment industry VIPs, local union officials and political leaders celebrated this year’s Oscar-nominated films made here in California at the Made In Hollywood Honors Oscar event Feb. 4, 2016.
Now in its fifth year, MIHH recognizes films nominated for an Academy Award in the categories of Best Motion Picture and Best Animated Feature that were produced in California to highlight our entertainment industry’s collectively work at sustaining the artistic, cultural and economic vibrancy of our communities throughout the state. The biannual event, established by former City Council Member Tom LaBonge and City Council Member (District 13) Mitch O’Farrell, recognizes Emmy-nominated television programs produced in California each September.
This year, co-sponsor Film Musicians Secondary Markets spearheaded the special first-time Lifetime Contribution to Hollywood Award to be presented to renowned composer John Williams for his works including the score to “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” the first in the film’s mega-franchise to be recorded in Los Angeles.
Several representatives from the American Federation of Musicians Local 47, Recording Musicians Association International, and the RMA Los Angeles chapter were present to celebrate this noteworthy honor. Local 47 Vice President Rick Baptist, Secretary/Treasurer Gary Lasley, Electronic Media Administrator Gordon Grayson, and Communications Director Linda Rapka joined RMA International President Marc Sazer and RMALA 2nd Vice President Elizabeth Hedman in the audience along with John Williams’ longtime orchestra contractor, Sandy De Crescent.
The ceremony took place on the Heart of Hollywood Terrace of corporate sponsor 1600 VINE. In addition to the Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund, co-sponsors of the event were SAG-AFTRA, the California Film Commission, FilmL.A., Teamsters Local 399, the Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund, and the Producers Guild of America, along with the MIHH corporate sponsor, 1600 VINE. Speakers included SAG-AFTRA Los Angeles Local President Jane Austin, FilmL.A. President Paul Audley, California Film Commission Executive Director Amy Lemisch, Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund Executive Director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth, Teamsters Local 399 Secretary-Treasurer Steve Dayan, and former State Senator Art Torres. Additional speakers included Councilmember O’Farrell, presented the event on behalf of the city, and Kevin James, director and chief liaison of the Mayor’s Office of Film and Television Production.
Actor, activist and SAG-AFTRA Los Angeles 1st Vice President Esai Morales of “La Bamba” fame served as host presenter. In recognition of two California-made animated feature films and one live-action feature film, he introduced “Inside Out” screenwriter Meg LeFauve, “Anomalisa” executive producers James Fino and Joe Russo, and “Straight Outta Compton” producer Scott Bernstein next received their awards.
Following these presentations, the Lifetime Contribution to Hollywood Award was presented to John Williams, who received his landmark 50th Academy Award nomination for his score to “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” — more nominations than any living person. “The scoring for this motion picture brought one of the largest film scoring projects of the year to Hollywood’s music community,” Morales said, “jobs for 125 orchestra members; 23 singers; more than 40 conductors, music contractors and music preparation professionals; in addition to technicians and engineers, all who collaborated to bring Williams’ brilliant score to life.”
“Recording the music for ‘Star Wars’ in Los Angeles was for me a great treat,” Williams said. “But the people who really should be thanked for having this happen are J.J. Abrams, the director of the film, Kathy Kennedy the producer, and also Michael Gorfaine and Jamie Richardson, who worked so hard to convince the powers that this was in the best interest of the score and in the best interest of the film. I also must thank Sandy De Crescent who has put this orchestra together, and who for 40 years has established a standard and maintained this standard — and if anything improved this standard over the 40 years that she and I have been working together. I have been very, very happy with this fabulous orchestra, which is a world-class orchestra. The group of musicians who play here with us in the films are the highest world-class level of professionalism in terms of comprehension of the material, sight reading, and the execution of all of it.”
Williams laughed as he shared the story of inviting his good friend, LA Philharmonic music director Gustavo Dudamel, to guest conduct the orchestra for the “Star Wars” opening march. “The orchestra was so thrilled,” he said. “They played pretty well for me, but they played better for Gustavo! I was a little bit jealous, but we had such fun. It was really a great thrill.”
His closing remarks reflected upon the people who brought his latest score to life: the AFM Local 47 musicians here in Los Angeles.
“What’s great about the quality of this orchestra is that, from a musical point of view, they deserve to be heard around the world,” Williams said. “It’s wonderful that they’re here in Los Angeles and we hear them and everyone knows them. But every time we can disseminate their work and their art in a way that’s appreciated around the world is really a prideful thing for Los Angeles.”
Watch video of John Williams’ speech courtesy of City of Los Angeles LA CityView Channel 35: